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How Roundabout Crashes Occur and Who May Be At Fault in Pennsylvania

roundabout during sunny dayDrivers are so used to traditional intersections that they are often unsure of what to do in a roundabout. They may be overly polite and yield the right of way when they should not do so. They may also stop in the middle of the roundabout.

These are just two examples of reckless driving behaviors that could lead to a roundabout crash that causes injuries. Below, we discuss the common types of roundabout accidents, why they happen, who may be held liable, and the rules of the road in Pennsylvania roundabouts.

Victims of these crashes may be unsure about what to do next. Schmidt Kramer’s experienced Harrisburg car accident lawyers have helped many people navigate the legal process following a collision. Call us to discuss what occurred and learn whether we can help you seek compensation.

Zero upfront costs for victims. We only get paid if you are compensated. Call (717) 727-2550.

What Are Roundabouts?

You can think of a roundabout as a circular intersection. Traffic moves from left to right around a central island.

Unlike traditional intersections, roundabouts are not controlled by stop signs or traffic lights. There is a continuous flow of traffic and drivers who are approaching the roundabout must yield to the cars already inside the circle.

Roundabouts were designed to be safer than traditional intersections, as there is a more efficient flow of traffic. All the conflict points at traditional intersections can raise the risk of a crash.

Are Roundabouts Safer Than Intersections?

As more and more cities across the nation convert traditional intersections to roundabouts and study the effects, they are seeing reductions in crashes. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation studied 20 years of crash reports on 42 roundabouts that used to be traditional intersections and found:

  • 24 percent reduction in crashes that likely involved serious injuries
  • 51 percent reduction in crashes that likely involved non-serious injuries
  • Three percent drop in the total number of crashes

The crash reports that were studied were filed between 2003 and 2022. This includes reports on crashes at the following roundabouts in Dauphin County:

  • Newtown Street
  • Davids Road
  • Chester Road
  • Rutgers Avenue and Fieldhouse Lane

Why Do Roundabouts Reduce Collisions?

Roundabouts have specific advantages over traditional intersections and these advantages help to lower the risk of collisions.

Fewer Conflict Points

There are fewer conflict points where vehicles can crash into each other. One such point of conflict in an intersection is a left turn in front of oncoming traffic – roundabouts eliminate the need for left turns, which are much more dangerous than right turns. When drivers coming from different directions can turn left, right, go straight or make a U-turn, there are more ways for a collision to happen.

Reduced Speed Limits

Roundabouts have lower speed limits than intersections – drivers cannot go as fast inside the roundabout because they are going in a circle. This reduces the possibility of high-speed collisions. Reduced speed limits also make roundabouts safer for pedestrians and those on bicycles.

Roundabouts are Simpler

Roundabouts are simpler than traditional intersections. You can only go one way and you do not need to wait for or interpret traffic signals. This reduces the possibility of misunderstandings that could result in crashes.

Roundabouts are More Efficient

Another advantage to roundabouts is they are more efficient. Drivers can grow impatient or angry while waiting at red lights. However, there is much less waiting at roundabouts. Roundabouts help reduce stopping and starting, which lowers the risk of rear-end crashes.

Rules of the Road for Pennsylvania Roundabouts

It is critical for drivers to know the rules for navigating roundabouts. Following these rules helps reduce the risk of crashes, allowing everyone to take full advantage of the benefits of these unique intersections.

These are the basic rules to follow when you encounter a roundabout in Pennsylvania:

  • Always yield to drivers who are already in the roundabout.
  • Enter the roundabout when there is a large enough gap in traffic.
  • Do not stop inside the roundabout, except to avoid a collision.
  • Use your turn signals when exiting the roundabout.

There are also specific rules about what to do when you encounter certain vehicles inside a roundabout:

Emergency Vehicles

  • Do not enter the roundabout when emergency vehicles are approaching. Pull over to the side of the road.
  • If you are inside the circle, proceed to your exit and pull over to the side of the road.

Large Trucks

  • Remember that large trucks may need to use both lanes in a multi-lane roundabout.
  • Do not attempt to pass a truck inside a roundabout, as there is a danger of getting sideswiped.

Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Bicyclists can enter roundabouts as if they are in a vehicle or follow the same rules as pedestrians.

Drivers must yield to pedestrians when entering and exiting roundabouts.

Pedestrians should use crosswalks and splitter islands to cross each leg of the roundabout.

Rules For Multi-Lane Roundabouts

These are the rules for turning right in a multi-lane roundabout:

  • Move to the right lane as you approach the roundabout.
  • Slow down and prepare to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • At the yield line, look left and yield to circulating traffic.
  • Enter the roundabout when it is safe, stay in the right lane and use your signal to exit.
  • Yield to pedestrians when exiting the roundabout.

If you are going straight:

  • Approach in any lane.
  • At the yield line, check for traffic from the left.
  • Enter the roundabout when it is clear.
  • Signal right to exit, stay in your lane and watch for pedestrians.

If you want to turn left or make a U-turn:

  • Use the left lane as you approach.
  • Slow down for pedestrians before reaching the yield line.
  • Look left at the yield line and yield to inside traffic.
  • Yield to vehicles in the outer lane when exiting, signal right and be mindful of pedestrians.

Types of Roundabout Accidents and Why They Occur

While the data says roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections, collisions still occur. These are some of the most common types of collisions in roundabouts:

  • Rear-end collisions: These are often the result of drivers entering the roundabout too fast and not being able to stop before crashing into the bumper of another car. These accidents also occur when drivers stop inside a roundabout, which is against the law.
  • Sideswipe collisions: These occur when drivers do not stay in their lane inside the roundabout or when changing lanes without checking for other vehicles. They may also happen because drivers attempt to exit the roundabout from the wrong lane.
  • Entering/exiting collisions: These happen when a driver fails to yield to traffic within the roundabout or misjudges the speed of oncoming cars while exiting.
  • Single-vehicle collisions: These can happen when a driver loses control and crashes into a sign or the central island. These accidents are often caused by speeding, bad weather or driver inattention.

Liability for a Roundabout Crash

As with most collisions, negligent drivers are usually at fault. For example, another driver may have violated your right of way or disregarded the speed limit.

Drivers may also be distracted or unsure of what they are supposed to do inside a roundabout. For example, they may be unsure of where they are going, and they may not have expected to encounter a roundabout. They want to stop to figure out where they are going. Unfortunately, this is extremely dangerous and can result in a rear-end crash that causes significant injuries. In these situations, the driver who stopped is likely at fault.

Rear-end crashes may also result from following another car too closely in combination with speeding.

Drivers need to be particularly cautious in multi-lane roundabouts as they need to change lanes. Unfortunately, many drivers are just as reckless in roundabouts as they are in traditional intersections.

However, every accident is unique, and determining liability can be complex. This is why you need to consult an experienced lawyer to evaluate what happened.

You might not think you need a lawyer for a roundabout crash because you were not going that fast. However, even at a relatively slow speed, a crash can cause significant injuries. You cannot count on insurance companies to pay for the full cost of your medical care and other damages.

Driving Safety Tips in Roundabouts

You can reduce your risk of an accident by taking some simple precautions:

  • Slow down as you approach the roundabout.
  • Pay close attention to traffic signals, road signs and other drivers.
  • Watch for pedestrians and cyclists who may be crossing and yield them the right of way.
  • Yield to traffic already in the roundabout and wait for a safe gap before entering.
  • Stay in your lane within the roundabout and use your turn signal when you plan to exit.
  • Do not stop within the roundabout unless you absolutely have to do so.
  • Use your turn signal well in advance of a lane change.
  • Do not follow other vehicles too closely, as this gives you enough time to react to sudden stops or turns.
  • Check your blind spots before turning.

Injured By Another Driver’s Negligence? Call Schmidt Kramer

If you have been involved in a roundabout crash, you may greatly benefit from a conversation with an experienced law firm like Schmidt Kramer. We have obtained millions for crash victims, and we understand the nuances of Pennsylvania’s road rules and how they apply to roundabouts.

Our legal services are provided with no upfront cost or obligation. There are also no fees while we work to pursue the compensation you need. This means there is no risk in calling and working with our firm on your case.

Schmidt Kramer is here to support and guide you through every step of the legal process, so you can focus on your health.

Call today: (717) 727-2550. We have recovered millions for those injured by negligence.